Being Our Best

As a pastor, it always feels a little sketchy talking about money.

Years ago Michelle and I were friends with a couple who were split on faith. The woman considered herself a Christian and was interested in being involved in the life of a church. Her husband was not a Christian and didn’t want anything to do with the church. In his words, “All they care about is getting your money.”

One day, seemingly out of the blue to us, Michelle’s friend reached out and said she and her husband wanted to come to church with us. We were excited that God seemed to be moving in their lives to the point that they initiated that. So we showed up the next Sunday morning praying God would use that in his life.

After singing, we sat down, and as the pastor launched into the sermon he said, “Today we’re going to talk about money.” Ugh. For real. Even though the sermon was great, our friend just heard the word money and it confirmed all his suspicions.

Things like that create hesitation in talking about money, but there are good reasons for doing it. One of those is that generosity has a lot to do with what it looks like to follow Jesus. But I’m not really focusing on that one today. Another reason is that money has to do with capacity.

Money won’t make us the best version of ourselves, but it plays a supporting role.

On the list of things that are important to making Trailhead the best version of itself, there are lots of things that come before money–hospitality, prayer, and sacrifice to name a few. But where there is clear vision, money plays a supporting role by creating capacity to see the vision realized. There are three ways this is true right now for us as a church. (In what follows, you’ll see reference to an “ideal budget.” Last week we shared two budgets–our current one and an ideal one. The difference between these is large, about $90,000, but it outlines how money can provide capacity to be our best.)

#1 We can become a generous church.

Right now we give about 3.5% away as a church. And that is on me as it’s happened with me leading. And it’s not okay. Our generosity as a church (and as individuals) should be inspired by the generosity of God. About 25% of the ideal budget we’re putting in front of you is an increase in giving. We’d go from giving away $3,500 to nearly $27,000. This will be focused on church planting and justice both locally and globally.

#2 We can have the staff capacity to do our best at the things we do.

The church is a body and everyone is meant to contribute. So when I say we can create sufficient staff capacity, I don’t mean that the staff will do everything. Our goal is to equip you to use your gifts and clear out the stuff in the way of you doing that.

One example of this is what Michelle does for teachers. She gets the lessons ready, makes sure we have the needed supplies, lays them all out, and follows up with teachers to make sure everything is working. She’s not teaching every week, nor should she. She’s making it easy for people to come and engage our kids on a weekly basis.

Right now there are two areas that will suffer most with the capacity we have. The first is youth. We have about five hours a week for someone to work with middle school and develop a plan for high school. This isn’t just about the students we have, but being prepared to engage new families and students who come. Our ideal budge would move this to 20 hours. The second area is mission. Right now I will need to devote time both to discipleship groups and Trailhead Renew. Our ideal budget includes someone to lead our discipleship groups ten hours a week, freeing up those hours for me to focus on mission through Trailhead Renew.

#3 We will care about those who aren’t a part of Trailhead right now.

This certainly isn’t primarily about money, but it has a financial aspect. Research and conversations in the past three months have made it clear that meeting on Sunday nights is a barrier to people connecting with our church, and families in particular. Moving to Sunday morning would remove this barrier for people. It’s not the most important thing, but based on what we’ve found it does seem like a significant thing. So our ideal budget includes money for this.

The other part of this one is that Trailhead Renew will focus on God’s mission of the renewal of all things, and people in particular. So if we have the staff capacity to devote the needed time to this and the resources to invest financially in the initiatives we’ll pursue, this can make a difference in reaching those who don’t know Jesus in our own communities.

What happens if we don’t have the money for this?

Simply, we do our best with what we have. God’s future for our church is not dependent on money. Again, money plays a supporting role, it’s not the main point. We are asking you to consider how you will contribute financially in the next year, and we’re looking for funding in some other places, so we will trust that God will provide what’s needed. As funding increases, we will use it to address the three areas highlighted above.

What we’re asking of you.

Ask God how he wants you to contribute financially to Trailhead in the next year. Hopefully this post has outlined specifically what you’re giving to, but please follow up with any questions you have. You might spend some time meditating on 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, both for yourself and for our church.

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Commit to whatever God invites you to give. Your commitments will help us know how we can move forward in the three areas above. Obviously you can always be asking God about this, but we’re asking all of us to consider this in the next couple weeks and respond by July 7. You can do that here.

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